Crunch Time Comes Early
Everybody likes Sam Mitchell. Direct, blunt and honest, with a little profanity tossed in to make sure nobody thinks he's a pushover.
Moreover, most people want Mitchell to succeed. He played the game hard and well, and waited patiently for his turn as an NBA head coach only to find that opportunity came with the dysfunctional Raptors.
But you have to believe the next nine games - three at home, six on the road - are going to decide whether Mitchell makes it to Christmas as the club's head coach after a horrendous 2-8 start.
Colleague Doug Smith, one of the country's most respected basketball writers, argues Mitchell can't be blamed for the club's inability to shoot and needs at least another 20 games.
Fair enough. But for a coach who was a strong defender during his NBA career, it's unfathomable why the Raps are so bad defensively. In 10 games, they've held the opponent under 100 points ONCE in a league in which two-thirds of the teams don't average 100 points a game.
The Raps are averaging 105.4 points against per game, 29th in the NBA out of 30 teams. They don't stop anybody, and statistically they rebound the ball less effectively than pretty much everybody except Milwaukee.
By comparison, Toronto's offence - 10th in the NBA - doesn't look so bad.
Given those lopsided numbers and the apparent direction of the team, it's hard to believe Mitchell will last if he can't win at the very least three of the upcoming nine.
One of those is against the Knicks, who are almost as bad as the Raptors. There are winnable contests against Atlanta, Indiana, Boston and Chicago.
Three wins out of those nine would put the Raps at 5-14 on the season, but at least there would be some encouraging signs.
Anything less and the skids will be greased for Mitchell.
Bryan Colangelo came to Toronto from Phoenix billed as a miracle worker, and the influx of Euro-talent over the summer gave the Raptors a new look and optimism.
This dreadful start, however, isn't making Colangelo look too sharp, and don't forget, he didn't hire Mitchell.
It wasn't that long ago that everybody was treating Colangelo as the fair-haired boy and John Ferguson as the village idiot.
Suddenly you don't hear that so much.
Moreover, the Raps have to wait until January until they get to load up on home games with 10 in that month.
But if they're way, way out of the playoff race by then - no easy trick in the NBA Eastern Conference, mind you - selling tickets is going to be much more difficult.
Colangelo doesn't have many cards to play. Bringing in his own coach sooner, as opposed to later, is one he does have in his hand.